FRANKFORT—Years ago, Michelle Chitwood and her husband Paul, the executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, began a foster care/adoption journey.
Now, each Sunday, Michelle leaves her husband and children (which includes one adopted daughter and one foster daughter as well as their older brother and sister, the Chitwood’s biological children), picks up an order of chicken McNuggets, fries and ranch dressing, and spends the afternoon at Maryhurst Treatment Center in Louisville.
Paul and Michelle Chitwood
Her mission: to visit D*, the sister of the Chitwood’s foster daughter L*.
“When I get there on Sunday, the workers tell me and her how lucky she is to have someone visit her,” Michelle said during a session of the Kentucky WMU annual meeting.
The Friday morning session was titled “Rise Up and Shine for Kentucky Kids” and included presentations from the Chitwoods, Dale Suttles, president of Sunrise Children’s Services, and a recounting of Sandy Wisdom-Martin’s adoption of her daughter.
Out of the hundreds of children who live at Maryhurst, only five or six get a visit on Sunday.
“I had no idea,” she shared with tears in her eyes, “that 20 miles down the road there were children sitting in the institutional home setting that never get a visit from anyone.”
Michelle shared some of D’s story, and added, “It’s not a fun place to go to. It takes up my time, but then I remember, she needs to know that she’s not forgotten.”
She emphasized the importance of Christians stepping up into orphan care, saying that had D been put into a Christian foster home when “all her struggles started, she would not be institutionalized today.”
Michelle believes D is in an institution because “we don’t have Christian families who are stepping up and doing what they are supposed to do, which is taking care of the most vulnerable around us.”
“As a nation, we think that our goal in life is to be comfortable. We’ve bought into that fake reality that says, ‘you’re really succeeding if you’re comfortable, if you get to do what you want to do all the time,'” she continued. “As a society we don’t have time for the broken. We want comfortable and we want easy. Because of that, we have kids that are so broken that I don’t know that they will ever be fixed. We need Christians to stand up… and take that challenge on.”
One way she suggested Kentucky Baptists can help is just going and visiting institutionalized children.
“I think the church has let these kids down,” she said, sharing from 1 Timothy 5:6. “I think we could change Kentucky if everyone in this room would take part.”
Paul Chitwood continued by recalling a time that D came to their home to visit. “Do you know why I’m glad L is here?” D asked, catching him “off guard.”
“No, honey,” he responded. “Why are you glad L is here?”
“I’m glad L is here because she has a daddy, and she’s never had a daddy.”
“As I thought about this older sister who lives in an institution celebrating the fact her little sister has a daddy, it touched me deeply. She is happy that her little sister has what she does not have,” he continued. “Every little boy and every little girl needs a daddy. Every little boy and every little girl needs a mommy. They need to know that there is someone who is for them, someone who loves them, someone who will protect them, teach them, and guide them. We all need that.”
Addressing those in the audience who are part of a church that gives to the Cooperative Program, he said, “What I want to say is, thank you for blessing my family and my home. We are able to love her and care for her because you help us do that,” through the ministry of Sunrise Children’s Services.
He encouraged Kentucky WMU to be involved in orphan care at any cost, even if eventually having to see a child put in another foster home would hurt. “We’ll get through it (the pain) because we’re not orphans—at least not now—because an eternal father believed in and practiced orphan care,” he said.
“He’s called me and you to do the same. Might we ‘Rise and Shine’ for the orphans in Kentucky,” Chitwood concluded. (WR)